Independent publishing is a “sink or swim” affair. One publication which has quickly bubbled up to the surface is Water Journal. Its founder and editor Edvinas Bruzas, originally from Vilnius in Lithuania, had worked as a designer for several print magazines in London before taking making his own. Water Journal was launched in June 2016, just two months after its Kickstarter campaign. Featuring arresting photography and evocative writing, carefully selected together with contributing editor Toby Mitchell, the English-language journal takes after its name, bringing you content that’s fluid, ever-changing and deeply reflective. We caught up with Bruzas about taking the plunge and pursuing his dream publication.
Was there a moment you can pinpoint when you first had the idea for Water Journal?
There was no big bang moment that drove the idea. It was always in the back of my head. Over time you start reflecting on your own identity and what you are about. How you think, how your brain works. Over time I came to the conclusion that I’d put two of my passions together — water and print.
What interests you about water?
I grew up with it. For me it was normal to spend a month somewhere near a lake every summer. Camping next to a lake for a week straight was the norm in Lithuania. I was always surrounded by water, whatever it was. Whether it was seaside, lakeside, swimming pools. Since I’ve moved here I don’t have much time to go swimming anymore, nor do I go out to the countryside as much.
In a way this is my personal getaway. Like a long, long vacation [laughs]. The making of it takes half a year.
How did you find your visual style?
In the beginning there was no set out description for what it was going to be. I gave myself a year to sit on it, to develop it to the standard I really wanted it to be. After I presented the idea I started sharing glimpses of what it could be on Instagram. People picked up on it, by seeing and relating to those visuals, as well as quotes and excerpts from other writing. Soon after they contacted me sharing stories of their own.
What have been some of the reactions to the magazine?
Some people take it seriously. Some people say they calm down and relax while reading it. A lot of people say it’s almost like meditating which goes back to the whole concept that I set out: for it to be quiet storytelling. It’s not too in your face. It’s more open and free.
Can you pick some of the stories that give a sense of what Water Journal is all about?
Going back to the first volume, there was a really honest observation about wild swimming. The feature was called Pond Life by Leon Foggit. Among all landscapes and travel stories in the issue it was one of the first stories that was more humane. It involved people. Also, there was no water in the picture. It was mainly people standing there dripping wet. In the second volume we had a really interesting piece written by Kristina Chelberg called The Science of Seasideness in which the author analysed seasideness, what it might mean and stand for, and asked why people feel a certain way when they are next to the sea.
How has the magazine changed since the first issue?
In the beginning it was quite literal in that it was just about water. I wanted people to understand it better, for it to not be a flimsy and abstract publication. In the second issue, there are fewer literal references to it. Going forward there will be less and less of the literal, so that it can expand further out and explore different areas that touch on the subject but isn’t necessarily restricted by it. It’s not something that’s meant to be directional. You set out on a journey for yourself and you’re not forced to understand it the way I understand it for myself. That’s the sort of journalism I personally prefer. It’s more quiet, and lets you reflect and spend some time with it.
What is an example of a story you featured which is not literally about water?
In Vol. 2 there’s we featured a story on Piaule, a brand that brings out new products quarterly. They give all their focus to objects that are easily ignored on an everyday basis. We featured their glassware collection. The only aspect of it related to water is that you could drink water out of it. The way they work and the way they appreciate what they do is very inspiring. It feeds back into the values we have as well. In this sense we relate more to the values than the story itself.
You mentioned in a past interview that you print the magazine in Kaunas with Kopa printing house. What’s been the reaction to the magazine back home?
It’s funny, one of the main TV channels in Lithuania came to London to do a feature on the journal. The way they showed it was in surprised fascination. It was like: we’re really fascinated but why? They didn’t say that. It was just the way they portrayed it. I feel like here, people are less scared to ask, why water? This TV channel had a different spin on it: it was like this guy who is completely obsessed with water is locked away in his room. I wanted it to be about other people who are involved with it but they filmed me working at home and drinking water. I really appreciate it but it is just funny, looking back on it.
Are there as many independent magazines in Lithuania?
It was always that publications were commercial growing up. It’s not like here. Even now, the ones that are considered independent are still commercial. They’ve still got a long way to go. Whereas here in London, five years ago there wasn’t as much as there is today. There was one shelf. I-d was considered to be independent. And now you would never say that. It’s very eye opening.
What can be expect from Vol. 3?
It’s going to be a little bit different. I find it important not to necessarily surprise the readers but to keep them interested and for it not to be steady and monotonous. Maybe the next issue will be something everybody won’t expect. Also, with the Vol. 3, Toby and I discovered a pattern in the covers, besides them being black and white. So see if you can spot it for yourself.